Son of Mr and Mrs. F. Pratt, of 43, Astley Rd., Hemel Hempstead, Herts.
Dantzig Alley British Cemetery, Mametz, III. D. 3..
Born: Hemel Hempstead.
Residence: Hemel Hempstead.Enlisted: Hemel Hempstead.
Sidney Pratt was born in Hemel Hempstead in 1898, and resided at 43 Astley Road, which is under 10 minutes walking distance from The Hemel Hempstead School. He served in the 7th Bedfordshire Regiment, who were attached to the 54th Brigade of the 18th Infantry Division. He died aged 18 at some point between 7:30am and 8:30am on July 1st 1916, in an assault on enemy trenches that formed part of the battle of the Somme.
The 7th Bedfordshires were instructed at some point before midnight on the 30th June 1916 to carry out an assault to help take the Pommiers Redoubt occupied by the enemy forces. According to the 7th Beds war journal, at exactly midnight, they moved into position in forward trenches to prepare for the attack that would take place at 7:30 am the next morning. The force was split into 5 companies, with Pratt featuring in the B Company led by Captain W.H Bull. The remaining consisted of C Company who would also assault commanded by Captain E Clegg. D Company, commanded by Captain T.E Lloyd, would act as a support company and A Company who served as reserve under commission of Captain A.E Percival. The two assaulting companies, B and C, were split into two forces, with B Company attacking the right flank, and C Company attacking the left flank.
Although the artillery barrage that had started to bombard the enemy positions was scheduled to end at 7:30, the order was given for B Company to commence their assault at 7:28 due to the greater distance they had to cover, and the requirement for covering fire to prevent casualties from the enemy machine guns while traversing the wire.
After leaving the forward trenches and passing the barbed wire, the men of B Company advanced in 4 waves, 3 in extended order, and 1 in artillery formation. B Company suffered only light casualties while manoeuvring into order, leading to belief that it is unlikely that Private Pratt was killed here. The Company then advanced towards the enemy trenches in ‘Parade Fashion’. In the time taken to advance between the two trenches, it is noted in the war journal that all junior officers were killed by enemy fire.
However, as B company made their way closer to the enemy entrenchments, they found that the barbed wire had not been cut by enemy fire, despite the successful attempts to cut it, B Company suffered heavy casualties.
At roughly the same time, an enemy machine gun redeployed to a right corner of the trench and opened fire, inflicting more casualties on the Bedfordshire’s. Although the machine gun was neutralised, the number of men dwindled and the support company was required to make up the ranks.
B Company successfully managed to storm the trench, but were greeted by rifle fire and melee combat. More casualties ensued but the trench was eventually taken and secured.
It is highly likely that Pratt was amongst those killed during the companies halt at the wire, but it is possible that he succumbed in the trench, but as the fighting in the trench was not completed until 12:30 and Pratt’s citation of being ‘ killed by morning’ it is likely that this is not the case.
There is a grave for Private Pratt in Dantzig Alley British Cemetery. Sidney Pratt is also featured on the Hemel Hempstead War memorial, situated on Station Road.
By Ryan Wilson, Will Nicholls and Daniel Keene
24th June 2016